Category Archives: Political Action

Recognizing and Using the Power We still Have: Moving Toward a More Sane & Livable Future

I know, politics again!  Gardening affords us all an escape from the mess of politics…but that ‘mess’ promises to take even that from us.

I’ve heard it argued that there is no point in having money and power if you do not use them. It certainly seems to be a popular or even dominant view in the US today. In a country where many of us feel relatively powerless to affect change or even have some degree of control to keep our own lives from falling to pieces, many of us would seem to identify with the man who today epitomizes the extreme of this position, our president, Donald Trump. His standard places winning above all else and it doesn’t matter what’s at stake, if he simply says he wants something, that is the only thing that matters.  He must win!  Nothing and no one can matter more.  To compromise is losing.  To take others and their position into consideration, is weakness….Whether there are other legitimate positions on something does not matter, once a position is taken, game on and there is no retreat, because this narrow idea of one’s honor matters far more than what might be best, or fair, or ethical, legal or moral.  Making these choices is a personal selfish matter.  There is no point in making an informed decision because being correct, or accurate, making the best decision based on our best scientific understanding of a problem or the most considered decision based on the consequences that will follow…doesn’t enter the ‘thought’ process at any point.   What matters is being in control and showing others that you are the most powerful. To do this you are willing to use every tool at your disposal.

Today there are few examples of wealthy and powerful men and women with the strength of character to say no to their own desires and ambitions.  The Koch brothers, er, brother, come to mind immediately, but their are others, many others, whose only goals seem to be centered on their continuing attempts to amass more wealth, more control, to wield more influence on the world and those around them, without ever attempting to consider what might be best for others, whether their fellow citizens or those of other countries, for the health of the planet that they and their predecessors have compromised and decimated or even the natural beauty that our constant expansion continues to lay waste to.  Where are our leaders?  All succumbed to the compromises they’ve committed to in their own Faustian bargains.

Today politics seems to concern itself only with what to do with the remnants and scraps that are left behind and who will benefit from them.  We seem poised on the edge of a contraction while the powerful fortify their positions from the attacks that will surely come with it.  The popular media, television, movies and ‘games’ seem’ a foreshadowing of what is to come.  It is hard not to be negative or cynical, for we all seem so committed to our particular chosen paths today that the coming ‘apocalypse’ would seem to be almost certain….It needn’t be, but first we have to believe that!

At some level it doesn’t surprise me that so many people voted for this man, ’45’, Trump, the ‘shit-gibbon’ or whatever name you’ve affixed him with.  He’s attracted such epithets like flies, his presence, character and demeanor, the least presidential of all of the presidents of my lifetime…yet he still has a ‘rabid’ following today, while opportunistic politicians, supportive or not, continue riding the wave of incredulity he has raised in Washington while they advance their own particular issues lost amidst all of the turmoil, outcry and public blood letting.  Many of his followers remain steadfast and true, strident and outspoken, often publicly taking up the cause in their own outrage, reflecting Trumps own flaunting of the law, increasing in their boldness. 

Trumps people are not those who necessarily occupy the lowest economic and social rungs of society, but they are the people who often believe themselves to be at immediate risk, who see themselves as those whom politicians and government have ‘forgotten’, whose lives are most precarious, who feel so little control that they are afraid of losing what they have…and they do not want to end up with or below, the blacks, the new immigrants, the ‘illegal hispanics’, or those individuals who comprise the coalition of LGBTQ, whom they’ve always seen themselves to be above of. They admire this man and they are standing with him as he reacts against the historically ‘undeserving’ poor.  Trump has given them someone to ‘kick’ and even made it ‘fashionable’ or at least acceptable to do so.  Whether you call it blaming the victim, divide and conquer or giving his supporters a ‘straw dog’ the effect is the same.  It is further driving society apart while at the same time putting ‘blame’ where it does not belong. 

While they may find him embarrassing and low class, a sizable portion of the wealthy elite, no doubt appreciate the work Trump has done for their cause.  He is a tool, a horse they will ride as long as it suits them. But the bulk of his supporters see in him somebody with qualities that they themselves wish they had so that they could take and secure what they see as their’s. He speaks proudly and takes action ignoring those who should give him pause, cause him to doubt his actions.  He cannot tolerate self-doubt and so acts boldly, brazenly and in so doing sparks something in those who feel small, who desperately want to believe that they too can get/take what they want.  This is the world that they believe they are living in, a world without kindness, a world of meanness, a world of winners and losers and one in which they desperately want to come out, if not on top, at least at some more secure level above the bottom. When I look at this world today I can hardly blame it on these people, for the lessons they have learned are all around us at almost every level. But they have made the wrong conclusions. 

They have accepted the path without a moral or ethical center, for expedience.  They are willing to sacrifice others to attain their goal, the same logic of the predatory wealthy who have utilized this same strategy so well in taking from the masses below them…beneath them in their minds.  Somehow these people with insecure futures, have convinced themselves that this will work for them.  That if they are strong enough they too can take what the want and secure themselves against those whom they would deny a place at the table…That in a game of the divided and decimated weak, they can succeed against their brothers and sisters whom they refuse to recognize.  That there is enough wealth at the bottom for them to take for themselves.  But this is a strategy that promises only further division, further struggle, in an effort that defines itself on taking from ‘others’ and securing it for oneself.  This will inevitably fail. 

We may profess to be a Christian country but our behavior regarding one another is anything but. It is sad, depressing even, to me, that this is the world we live in, that our children are inheriting…so many of us accept and take this as a given. That is the most frightening aspect of all of this to me, that this is the world most of us seem to expect…We have set our sights on such a low standard that we will assure its realization.  We have all but forgotten that if we want something better we must work for it and in order to do that we must first begin to see the value and goodness in ourselves and each other.  We have forgotten the power of a positive vision.  We have surrounded ourselves with leaders who have forgotten as well or simply have chosen this diminished and negative path out of their own greed and willingness to sell the rest of us short.  If we do not turn this around this is surely the world we will be stuck with.  We will be left with only the empty promises of the politicians we’ve been following all along.  We are going to have to very quickly learn how to distinguish integrity and vision from political manipulation if we are to be able to better choose leaders who can help us lead ourselves out of this mess.  The old pattern and politics will assure us failure. Trump has set a ridiculously low standard for leadership and public behavior, but there are all too many politicians out there just as destructive, selfish and blind as he is though they are dangerously, politically more savvy.  The burden is on us the voters.  It is up to us to reject this dead vision and short sighted politics and put in its place a positive vision which can inspire us to better ourselves and this world.  There is no in-between.  The margins have drastically narrowed.  We and the world are now at a level of unprecedented risk.  Do you accept this and the sad excuse of ‘greatness’ Trump has given us, as we all scramble for the last of the low lying fruit, or do you believe in something better for the world.  That is it in a nutshell.  We have followed the politics of compromise so far that it seems to make little difference in what or who we choose.  Our only real choice is to reject it.  The choice before us reads more like mutually assured destruction. The other one offers genuine hope, not the political package of promises we’ve seen before.  One choice will inspire us and push us to create a world of possibility, the other will leave us in the trough as we devour what is left of the world and each other.

On Ecology, Politics and Climate Change: the Links that Tear us Asunder

Warning!!! This is a rant! It’s political, economic, ecological and, most definitely, covers all of the connections between with climate change, these things and our future as a species.  I hope you choose to read it, but be forewarned!!

I woke up yesterday at 4:30am, unable to go back to sleep, so I got up and began writing this.  The state of the world, the absolute idiocy, meanness and short sightedness of politics today, the undeniable enormity of climate change and its inevitable impacts for every organism on the planet, drives me from paralyzing frustration, to near rage, to profound sadness and despair.  Most days all I can do is seek escape and I do this through gardening, reading eclectically, trying to follow some kind of routine, going for walks, a swim or a hike, sharing time with friends or delving into research on plants and the everyday miracles within them and their wondrously choreographed lives here on this planet….I spent my entire morning writing and rewriting this (and returned to it the following day, now today).  It is me ‘sharing’.  Yes, it’s a rant, it’s a bit of analysis, it’s a window into the world as I see it and it contains a hope I have…that I have to cling to most days, for this world and all that lives upon it, because what we have done, what we continue to do, is so profoundly destructive and disheartening to me. Continue reading

On the Necessity of Poetry in the World

In Pinnacles National Park on the High Peaks Trail

Unlike the Irish, who embrace and celebrate their poets, or the Japanese with their several centuries long history of haiku, we Americans embrace the rational, the utilitarian and too often jot our observations down in reductionist, artless lines….I know that is not always true, but face it, we scoff at poetry, unless it is dressed in the postures of hip-hop or pop culture, ambient lyrics vying for our attention in the ‘battle’ to attract customers.  Poets take as a given the mystery and beauty of life.  They do not shy away from the sharp edges and risks.  Like visual artists, whose eyes cause them to see the world in a multiplicity of ways, poets describe a mutable, ineffable world, that is different from moment to moment, whose ‘boundaries’ shift and transform that which they appear to contain…as if the world were an experiment in the shifting perspective of quantum physics….Poets ‘paint’ with swaths and scrawls of letters across the page, measured and rhythmic, a code, an illumination, a pathway they’ve scribed across a page, from heart to heart across the beating Earth.  We Americans crave solidity, a stable world where being and life are fixed and knowable…we leave the rest for God and the egg-heads as if these things don’t really matter to us…as they are beyond our ken and responsibility.  The world of the poet raises too many questions for us and questions can undermine the investment we’ve put into our fixed world image upon which we’ve staked our lives.  Americans are blindered gamblers and most of us have placed our bets on the same outcome.

I do read poetry…even attempt to write it sometimes.  I read science and history, politics and about the social ways of my fellows.  I garden and often agonize over what is ‘wrong’ in this world…what we can do to heal it.  Poetry teaches us that connection is often not found in a straight line.  Solution is not found in the old ways of thinking, ways that can only lead us down this path we seem to be fatally connected to.  Poetry is opening and inclusive, it speaks to what we share, what we stand to lose.  To read it requires something different of us, that we exercise and strengthen long neglected muscles, muscles that once moved us through our childhood worlds of wonder and awe.  The adult world has largely banished this, stripped life of wonder, and with it, the value integral to the heart of all things.  We scoff at those who speak of this, call them childish and dismiss them….This is what we’ve lost and the world so desperately needs today.  Continue reading

A Course Correction: The Wild and the Human, On Repairing the Relationship Between Politics, Economics and the Environment

“We are the odd ones, with bright eyes, that see the wonder of a bountiful world.  We don’t look through rose colored glasses…we’ve only removed the veil that breaks and blinds….Now, to cut the strings that tie us to the lie. ”  Lance Wright, Jan. 2019

Echinops ritro in front of a Miscanthus gracillimus several years ago at Holladay Park. A series of perennial beds were created with help from a notable local designer. For a variety of reasons related to budget, staffing and vandalism, the beds declined.  Beauty, that necessary elixir, truly abounds, but we must be cognizant of the forms in which we accept it and be committed to what it requires to flourish.

Gardeners are my people…well, actually, so are botanists, horticulturists, entomologists, ecologists, the weekend outdoor adventurers who in regular moments of awe, pause to take in the daily wonder of the world…anyone, really, who works with or has become enamored with the living natural world (and I’m going to include geologists too, at least those not taking their livelihood from resource extraction).  I have a theory, that as our modern world becomes increasingly urbanized, and transformed by our use to that which supports urban living, more of us are becoming consciously aware of what we are losing, of the natural world that has been sacrificed, developed, along the way…and in ways, large and small, many, but still far too few of us, are choosing to make our lives reflect this understanding. We question the ‘stuff’ we have crowded our lives with, that ‘stuff’ we’ve spent our lives to procure while following the dream we’ve all been sold on.  Many of us garden on whatever we have available to us whether it’s a quarter acre, a Juliet balcony or a kitchen counter space.  We plant gardens for food or to support pollinators, to have something green and growing in our homes, we grow small succulents for their simple beauty, flowers for the vase or plants that provide cover and fruit for songbirds, there are many reasons…and we do this for the pleasure that it gives us, for the satisfaction that we are doing something to heal an increasingly ‘broken’ world.  Yet the world continues to spiral down into more ugly chaos, in spite of our increasing awareness…it is not enough.  I find myself drawn even more into the wonder and beauty of a single plant, the ‘miracle’ of life and the amazing complexity, the inter-relatedness of living communities…because, in spite of how our society views this planet and the countless organisms it routinely dismisses as secondary, and unnecessary or of little commercial value…life is in fact the center of meaning and value. Continue reading

The Politics of Life: Courage, Imagination and Living a New World

Nature, in all of its wildness, is ultimately the seat of all beauty. If we are to continue on as a species we must find our place within it. Taken from the climber’s trail ascending East Peak, 9,380′, via the ridge from Mount Howard, in the Eagle Cap Wilderness of far northeastern Oregon.

Politics is the process whereby society makes decisions, the process it uses to establish the broader, though sometimes quite specific, rules by which we live and work.  Our government is a representative, democratic republic.  Our governance is a public matter intended to serve the public good…to support or improve the lives of its citizens…not that of a monarch, an oligarch, despot, feudal lord or leader of a church.  It is a democracy in which citizens exercise their right to be heard through their vote and we do this generally by electing representatives who work in our interest.  In some cases issues are referred to citizens or initiated by us on particular matters, but we do this primarily through our election of representatives.  Ideally representatives focus and amplify the will of their constituents, expressing this through the bills that they introduce and their vote.  If this will is muddled, indecisive or polarized, so to is its direction leaving an opening for other influences, such as lobbyists, to effect their votes.  It can be easily argued that a divided constituency is just what powerful interests want as it will increase their own influence…divide and conquer!  When that collective voice of the citizens is more focused and powerful, powerful interest lose influence and political decision making will reflect this.  We are ‘taught’ early on that our ‘voice’ is limited to our voting in elections, but this is not true.  Everything we do, all of our choices, have political ramifications, what we buy, where we buy it from, how we get to work, what we do there, how we choose to spend our non-working hours, how we treat others.  We help shape the world through our choices.  Government is an extension of our collective voice, our collective actions.  Government is not the cavalry, not the hero, in our story…we are and we are also our own enemy and fool.  If anyone is going to ‘ride’ to our rescue it is each one of us. Continue reading

The Insect Apocalypse is Here!

From the title page of the NYTM article

Much of today’s news media mires us in the sensational, adding little to our desperate need for clarity.  Instead we are subjected to endless ‘stories’ whose primary intent seem to be distraction, obfuscation, dissipation and division, leaving us at best numbed and discouraged from taking effective action….I know many who would say that this is precisely their intent.  This is not, however, true in every case.  I only recently came across this story in the New York Times Magazine, yes that bastion of unabashedly liberal ‘fake news’.  On the face of it, it is another such story.  The story’s title plainly states, ‘APOACALYPSE’, a word which carries so much negative baggage that its inclusion alone will keep many readers away…but don’t be dissuaded!  This article is more ‘wakeup call’ than hammer.  It is a call for action not the simple manipulative emotional plea that has become an integral part of current political strategy.  It clearly defines and lays out the problem, which is absolutely essential to taking effective action.  It does indeed paint a frightening and devastating future for us all…if we choose to continue on our current path, but it also points out a way through it, and, throughout the entire article, it introduces us to individuals and organization who are credible and passionate witnesses and actors in their efforts to make a positive difference.  This is exactly what we need right now.  Powerlessness is not an option.  Read the article!

The Insect Apocalypse Is Here!

The Lower Deschutes River: the Incursion of Invasive Plants and our Failure to Responsibly Maintain Native Plant Communities

This picture should give anyone more than enough reason to visit here, the Deschutes sliding out its mouth into the Columbia with the Washington side of the Gorge in the distance, the low angled early evening sun illuminating everything sharply.

 

[As I go over this post yet again, July 21, the 80,000 acre Substation Fire is still burning across canyon and wheat country here.  Included in the blaze are the 20 miles of the Lower Deschutes canyon down to the campground at the confluence with the Columbia.  Much of this burned down to within 2′ or 3′ of the riverbank including the historic Harris Ranch buildings.  So, when you look at all of these pictures, with the exceptions of where the fire hopped and skipped, everything is charred.  The Oregon Wildlife Federation, formed in the 1980’s to purchase and protect this portion of the canyon, has stepped up with $100,000 to help the area recover.  It will take considerably more especially if there is any intention of making headway regarding the spreading invasives problem.]

[Now, another 2 weeks later more massive fires continue to burn across the dried up West that has just experienced another record breaking month of heat, while the president goes on ‘bleating’ and blaming it on our ‘bad’ environmental laws and all of the water we’re diverting into the ocean!  ‘F’ing! moron!]

The last time we came here was eight years ago in December.  My memory of then is much like the experience on this evening…only it was clear and cold.  The light was similar except that then the low angled sun was due to winter, with that season’s urgency, not a late Spring evening like this outing.  This time it is warm, camp is comfortable and nearby and the greens are still gathered around the river and the still moist draws and seeps.  On that day we’d gone to Hood River for my birthday, to get out of town and there was a break in the weather so we drove here to these trails at the mouth of the Deschutes, hiked along the river, returning on the upper springs trail.  Winter or summer, green only sticks around a little longer than we do, before it retreats…life is shier here, tough, but shy.  The starkness of this landscape should be read as a warning to visitors, this is no easy Eden.  Life is earned here or at least requires a strength, patience and frugality that many don’t have.  This is much the same for people as it is for wildlife and plants.   Them that don’t, can’t.  That’s why it may be surprising to some that such a place has a problem with exotic invaders.  What could possibly look on places such as this as ‘favored’?  Well, Central Asia, especially its Steppe, with its continental, cold and dry climate containing many species that see such a place as this as home, or even better, without the competitors they faced back there.  The temperature can swing widely here on any given day while the seasonal extremes can vary as much as 125ºF from high to low.  Relatively few plants can thrive in this.  The dry summers with their very limited and sporadic thunder showers, combined with the ‘wet’ winters, total only 10″-12″ or so of precipitation, plus or minus, is another major limiting factor.  Of course, near the river, the moisture problem is moderated  and a broader range of invasives can find a ‘foothold’.  We, as a people, have ‘brought’ these weeds here with us in our travels, often as a result of our commerce.  Those that have made it here are spreading.  Too many prosper. Continue reading